Telemundo Places Newscaster On Leave Over Her Affair With L.A. Mayor

Thursday, July 5th 2007, 9:20 pm

By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Spanish-language network Telemundo has placed a newscaster on leave while it investigates whether her romantic relationship with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa breached journalistic ethics, TV station KVEA said Thursday.

The Telemundo affiliate announced the probe two days after Villaraigosa, whose wife has filed for divorce, acknowledged he had been in an extramarital affair with newswoman Mirthala Salinas for about a year.

``We will conduct this investigation with the utmost respect to personal privacy and journalistic standards,'' said Manuel Abud, the station's general manager.

The mayor's office had no comment, Villaraigosa spokesman Sean Clegg said.

Salinas said in a statement that she would cooperate with the investigation. She said, ``I am confident that when all the facts are analyzed it will be clear that I conducted myself in an appropriate way.''

Salinas once covered the mayor as a political reporter. Telemundo took her off the political beat about 11 months ago after she disclosed her relationship to station management, the mayor has said.

Still, as the station's news anchor, Salinas read an on-air report last month on the mayor's separation from his wife. At the time, Villaraigosa declined to say whether he was involved with another woman.

``It's a little late, but good for them,'' said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism foundation in St. Petersburg, Fla.

McBride said the station should bring in an outside expert to help conduct a probe. She said it should have been conducted when station managers first learned of her involvement with the mayor.

Any investigation must also ask what role her managers played, McBride said.

``The investigation should include not just what stories did she influence, but who knew and when did they know and what were their decisions,'' McBride said.

Since confirming his romantic relationship with Salinas at a news conference Tuesday, Villaraigosa has all but disappeared.

The famously ubiquitous mayor had no public appearances on July Fourth. He even skipped the official opening of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign headquarters in Los Angeles, even though he is a national co-chair of the Democrat's campaign.

He had no events Thursday, and is not expected to appear in public until next week.

The mayor ``deserves a few days' vacation during a holiday week to attend to personal and family matters,'' Clegg said.

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